OSHA upholds fines against producers of ‘Midnight Rider’
The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration has upheld its fines against the producers of “Midnight Rider,” the biopic about the life of musician Gregg Allman that shut down last year after a crew member was killed in a train accident.
Sarah Jones, a 27-year-old camera assistant, was killed and several others were injured last year when a freight train struck the crew as they were filming a scene on a trestle in rural Georgia. Authorities said producers did not have permission to film on the railway.
The federal agency in August fined Film Allman LLC $74,900 in connection with the accident, citing the company for one willful and one serious safety violation for exposing employees to hazards.
Producers contested the fines, maintaining they did nothing wrong. But a federal judge this week upheld the citations.
“Bad management decisions have real and lasting consequences, and when those decisions involve safety, the consequences can be tragic,” said Kurt Petermeyer, OSHA’s regional administrator for the Southeast, in a statement following the ruling. “The death of Sarah Jones is particularly disheartening because it was entirely preventable.”
Petermeyer said the producers “blatantly disregarded” safety obligations to the crew by allowing the filming to occur on an active railway.
“They were fully aware that the railroad tracks were live, and that they did not have permission to film there,” Petermeyer added. “While yesterday’s decision cannot correct or reverse the terrible events of February 2014, we hope that it will serve as a reminder to the film industry that safety has an important, necessary role on every set and in every workplace.”
Jones’ death sparked outrage in the film and television industry and became a rallying cry to create safer sets for film crews across the country.
In March, the film’s director and producer, Randall Miller, pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter and criminal trespass. He is serving a two-year prison sentence and was fined $20,000. As part of a plea agreement, charges against his wife and producing partner, Jody Savin, were dropped.
Sarah Jones’ parents sued Miller and Savin, alleging they negligently caused their daughter’s death, but reached a confidential settlement with the filmmakers in November.
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